Two-time boat race winner and UPenn graduate Dara Alizadeh takes part in his first Olympic Games and represents Bermuda in the M1x
1. What inspired you to do your first rowing session? was there anything memorable about that?
I was originally a wrestler in high school and loved it. However, my high school rowing coach suggested I try rowing which I was a little skeptical and not really interested in at first, but my parents said I had to at least try. I remember getting into a foursome with a helmsman and it was very rocky, but it was a beautiful day down by the river which probably helped me decide it was fun.
2. Was there a training session, race, or other event that made you fall in love with the sport or knew you might not be that bad at rowing? When you thought you could make it to the national team?
There was one training session in my junior year in high school where I won my first direct seat race against an older student, and I realized I was okay with that. For a national first team I think I was pretty shocked on my first strike day in the first draft of the 8+ Down in the Charlottesville U23 selection that they gave the keys to a Penn guy, but it was the fastest boat by far that I’ve been in there before, and it gave me a big boost. Aside from a single workout, I think it really boosted my confidence to take the next step every time, from high school, college, U23, boat racing to senior level racing.
3. Best race / training, worst race / training?
Best race was Burk Cup 2014, Penn vs. Northeastern. In total, 0 people picked us to win, I don’t even think Penn thought a win was possible, but we raced like we had nothing to lose. In the 1000 we had 7 places and suddenly we wanted to win this race. The best training time was Cambridge Blue Boat in 2018, we had a camp before the boat race in Nottingham and the boat just went so well together and clicked this week.
Probably the worst practice was a Penn tradition called Ted Nash Row where we rowed 73 miles in a day. That was pretty rough.
The worst race was Linz 2019 which drove the MX1 for Bermuda after sculpting for 3 months. Humiliation doesn’t even begin to describe it, but it was a learning experience
4. The best / everything you’ve done in this sport that nobody knows about?
I am two-time Sveti Duje Regatta Champion in Split, Croatia – nobody talks about that anymore. I also won the best hair at the 2021 BUCS regatta. It’s the little things that count.
5. Any / most important advice for young rowers?
Rowing is the only sport you can achieve if you’ve never seen a rowboat to get to the top of a college rowing career.
Focus on the process, the score takes care of itself.
Don’t talk about the “sacrifices” you make while rowing. You make decisions, not victims. Rowing is hard, embrace it.
Hometown: St. Georges, Bermuda
Place of birth: Brookline, MA, USA
Current Location: Cambridge, UK
Association membership: Bermuda Rowing Association, Cambridge University Boat Club, UTS Rowing, Cambridge Boat Club
Started rowing: 2008
Date of birth: August 27, 1993
Secondary school: The Belmont Hill School
Basic training: University of Pennsylvania
Graduate education: Cambridge University
Training location: Ely, Cambridge
Current trainer: Rob Baker
National teams: USA U23 8+ 2015 (Plovdiv, silver), Bermuda 1x 2019 – today
International results: USA U23 8+ 2015 (Plovdiv), Bermuda 1x (WM 2019 Linz, Olympic qualification 2021 Rio, WM2 2021 Luzern)
National results: Boat Race wins with Cambridge in 2018 and 2019